Continued from Phongsaly Laos Sheng and Black Tea Reviews – Part 1
400-year-old-plant sheng: There’s a nice citrusy front-end note, with depth and complexity beyond that. The tea is very pleasant. The citrus is in between lemon and grapefruit but paired with notable sweetness, which makes it come across closer to orange or tangerine. A deep layer of mineral tone supports all the rest nicely – a light flint / granite range.
Feel is nice; full with a good bit of structure, just not as thick and rich as sheng sometimes are. Intensity is good but could be more developed.
Aftertaste is nice; it definitely doesn’t drop away, with that mineral, the citrus, and some of the middle flavor range carrying over – so a lot of the experience. Bitterness is present but moderate; astringency is also limited, just enough to support that full feel. There’s other intermediate flavor range, a sort of cured hardwood, which works well in combination with those two other ranges.
Novelty and balance are the strongest points, and those are great positive ranges to cover.
As rounds / infusions progress, the citrus aspect expands into a touch of sourness, which later transitions into a bit of spice aspect, closest to clove.
Black tea: Soft, full, complex, and flavorful, but also non-distinct and not as intense as it might be in earlier rounds (infusions). It’s clean in effect, with character and aspects in the right range: Cocoa sweetness, underlying flavor complexity, etc.
As infusions progress cocoa still stands out as a main flavor, with some non-distinct complexity supporting that. The overall effect is positive, the character is nice; it’s just not as exceptional for the first two to three rounds as later on. “Pushing” this tea would probably draw out better results, using maximum possible brewing temperature and an upper range for proportion. There is no astringency or any negative character to work around, so it could work brewed light or as strong as one likes.
In later infusions it picks up a dried dark cherry flavor, with an earlier slight dryness changing to a richer feel aspect. Early rounds were pleasant but later rounds were really exceptional.
In conclusion, both were quite nice teas. Sometimes characteristic “rustic” comes up in trying teas from other Southeast Asian countries (roughness of feel, or unusual earthy tastes), but these weren’t like that. Flavor ranges are somewhat unique, but then Chinese / Yunnan versions vary so much that it doesn’t work to say that they’re actually outside that range. Quality and tea character / type is on a similar level with above-average-quality Yunnan sheng pu’er and Dian Hong.
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